The May 2006 "West Papua Report" is the
27th in a series of monthly reports that focus on
developments affecting Papuans. This reporting series is
produced by the West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) drawing on
media accounts, other NGO assessments and analysis and
reporting from sources within West Papua. Previous monthly
reports have been released under the auspices of the Robert
F. Kennedy Memorial Human Rights Center. Because of changes
at the Center which have necessitated the cessation of a
number of country-specific programs, this and future monthly
reports will be under the auspices of the West Papua
Advocacy Team, now operating as a non-profit organization
without affiliation to the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Human
UNHCR Barred from
International concern about the
deteriorating human rights environment in West Papua was
evident in a hearing convened in the Australian Senate in
May to consider changes in the country's immigration law.
The regional representative of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Neil Wright, expressed
concern about reports of human rights abuses in the
Indonesian province and emphasized that UNHCR officials have
been unable to gain access to the region.
"I can confirm that, despite repeated
requests, the UNHCR has not been given permission by the
government in Jakarta to have access to West Papua," he
said. "We do not have direct information from there. We do,
of course, have information coming from those who cross into
Papua New Guinea and are interviewed by us."
As an example, Mr. Wright also told the
hearing that the UN has received an appeal from Papuan
asylum seeker Siti Wanggai, whose daughter has been given
asylum in Australia. Wanggai, who is in hiding in Papua New
Guinea, claims she was forced by Indonesian authorities to
make an appeal to have her daughter return to Indonesia.
Indonesian Government Attempts to
Silence Foreign Critics of its
Policies in West Papua
Melbourne-based newspaper The Age reported
on May 22 that Australian academics fear they are being shut
out from Indonesia after Jakarta banned cooperation between
Indonesian institutions with two Australian universities.
The ban on cooperation covers the enrollment and attendance
of Indonesian students in the RMIT University and Deakin
University, and a ban on the issuance of visas to academics
from both institutions. The ban was issued by the Indonesian
Ministry of Higher Education, which has urged all Indonesian
universities to end co-operation with the two Australian
Academics see the ban as an attempt to
silence Australian academic criticism of Jakarta over its
policies in West Papua. The Jakarta government intimidation,
according to Dr. Clinton Fernandes, a lecturer at the
University of New South, is affecting other institutions.
"They know that if you are an Indonesia specialist, access
to Indonesia to do field work is essential to your career."
Dr Richard Chauvel, an expert on Papua at Victoria
University, described the ban as a revival of the
uncertainty academics faced during the Soeharto
dictatorship, when bans were often imposed without a stated
Former Indonesian Military Chief Urges
Expansion of Indonesian Intelligence
The Indonesian state news agency, Antara,
reported on May 23 that former Indonesian military chief
General (ret.) Wiranto told a special committee of the
Regional Representative Council (DPR) that groups in certain
countries such as the U.S., Australia and in Western Europe
were seeking to "internationalize" the situation in West
Papua. He contended that such groups used "tricks" similar
to those used at the height of the East Timorese
To address this purported threat, he
recommended that the national intelligence agency (BIN)
sharpen its overseas operations so as to foil what he
alleged to be efforts to cause Papua`s disintegration.
Report Details Human Rights Problems in West Papua
In a May report on Indonesia, Amnesty
International noted the following updates on the conditions
in West Papua:
In March, the military announced plans to
increase troop numbers in Papua by 15,000. There were
concerns that this might lead to more human rights
violations in the province. Hundreds of additional military
troops were reportedly sent to Merauke in October. Concerns
were also expressed that troops withdrawn from NAD (Aceh)
could be deployed in Papua.
Tight restrictions on access to Papua by
international human rights monitors, as well as harassment
and intimidation of local activists, hampered independent
human rights monitoring. At least two peaceful supporters of
Papuan independence were sentenced to long jail sentences.
There were reports of arbitrary arrests, torture and
In April, prisoners of conscience Yusak
Pakage and Filep Karma were sentenced to 10 and 15 years in
prison, respectively, for having raised the Papuan flag in
December 2004. Both were imprisoned in Jayapura, Papua
province, and had lodged appeals to the Supreme Court.
In September, two police officers were
acquitted by the Human Rights Court in Makassar but the
victims were denied reparations. The officers were charged
with command responsibility for the killing of three people
and the torture of many others in Abepura, Papua in 2000 .
The initial investigation was marred by allegations of
witness intimidation. The case suffered severe delays in
both the investigation and trial stages. The victims and
their families lodged an appeal.
Reject One of 43 Papuan Asylum Seekers
At least 43 Papuans who in January fled
genocide in West Papua and were granted "temporary
protection visas" have protested the Australian government's
decision to deny a visa to one of them. According to the
Papuans, David Wainggai, whose father was the founder
of the West Papua Independence movement was denied a visa.
Wainggai's father died as a political prisoner in an
Indonesian prison under mysterious circumstances.
Papuans contend that Wanggai will
undoubtedly suffer persecution if he is forced to return to
Australian officials responsible for the
decision noted that "This person (Wainggai) does have the
right to re-enter and live in another country ...The person
has not yet exhausted his rights to re-enter and live in
another country." Observers believe that Australia wants to
send Wainggai to Japan because his mother was born there.
However, his mother reportedly renounced her Japanese
citizenship some years ago and currently lives in Jakarta.
Wainggai's lawyer, David Mann, from the
Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, told the media that
his client was considering all his legal options, and would
apply to the Refugee Review Tribunal to have his case heard.
He emphasized that Wainggai does not have any "right" to go
New Refugee Policy
Under Consideration in Australia Likened to Refugee Policy
Targeting Jews in World War II Europe
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation
reported on May 26 that an Australian Senate inquiry
investigating Australia's plan to send asylum-seekers to
offshore processing centers has heard comparisons to the
treatment of Jewish refugees during the Holocaust. Former
Federal Court Justice Ronald Merkel compared offshore
processing to Switzerland turning away Jewish refugees
fleeing Nazi Germany. "The very context in which this bill
has come before the Parliament, namely the West Papuans, has
chilling reminders of what occurred in the Second World
War," he said.
Also giving evidence was Neill Wright from
the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
He stated that UNHCR "considers the bill to be
discriminatory and inferior." Several Coalition MPs have
already raised concerns over the proposed policy.
The Senate Committee heard a range of legal
and human rights arguments against the idea. Among the
critics, 47 international NGOs signed a letter to Prime
Minister John Howard developed by WPAT protesting the
proposed policy (see following item regarding this letter).
The Australian government's attempts to fashion a new
refugee policy follows a serious diplomatic row with
Indonesia after a group of Papuans arrived in Australia in
January and were given protective asylum. The Papuans braved
a five-day open ocean voyage in an outrigger canoe to escape
conditions under Indonesian rule which they described as
The inquiry is due to report next month.
International NGOs Appeal to Australian
Government To Adhere to International
Standards Regarding Papuan And Other Asylum Seekers
A May 11 letter to Prime Minister John
Howard signed by 47 NGOs based in eight countries urged the
Australian government "to uphold its obligations under the
Refugee Convention, to recognize the plight of Papuans
suffering brutalization on your doorstep, and to adopt
humane refugee policies in keeping with the widely
recognized principles of the Australian people."
The wide range of international
organizations protested the Australian government's plan to
amend its law to exclude refugees arriving by boat without
visas from a fair consideration of their claim. The refugees
would be held in conditions described by observers as
Among the signatories were Human Rights
Watch; Institute on Religion and Public Policy;
International Immigrants Foundation; Robert F. Kennedy
Memorial Center for Human Rights (drafter); TAPOL, the
Indonesia Human Rights Campaign; Torture Abolition and
Survivors Support Coalition International; Asia-Pacific
Solidarity Coalition; Leadership Conference of Women
Religious; Great Lakes Rural Australians for Refugees; and
Pax Christi USA.
(View the letter at the website of the East
Timor and Indonesia Action Network)
Logging in West
Papua Devastates Papuan Ecology, Marginalizes Papuan People
The Newsletter published by Down to Earth
for May 2006 (No. 69) focuses on the future of Papuan
forests. The well-researched article rings alarm bells
regarding the rampant devastation of Papuan forests by
corporations, often operating illegally and under the
protection of Indonesian security forces.
The report include the following major
The island of New Guinea - of which West
Papua is the western part - has one of the largest areas of
intact forest remaining on earth. These forests have huge
biodiversity and a high proportion of the plants and animals
found there are unique to the island.
Papuan forests are the focus of a power
struggle between the Indonesian central government and West
Papua. Legal and illegal logging are causing rampant
deforestation, but have also disenfranchised the indigenous
Papuans are increasingly aware that while
their rich natural resources - minerals and fisheries, as
well as forests - make the biggest contribution to state
revenues, they remain in poverty. The lack of benefits from
decades of exploitation was underlined last year when the
World Bank reported that 40% of Papuans remained below the
poverty line, more than twice the national average for
Matters came to a head when central
government launched Operation Hutan Lestari II to curb
'illegal logging'. All community logging licenses were
withdrawn, leaving communities with no legal alternative to
generate income from their forests.
An April agreement signed by the central
government with a Chinese state firm calls for investment of
over one billion dollars in a massive timber extraction
operation. The deal could ignite a power struggle between
central government in Jakarta and Papua's provincial
government, which has already complained about the lack of
decision-making power delivered under special autonomy
measures introduced four years ago. The investment, which
can be expected to accelerate the marginalization of
indigenous Papuans in the logging zones, is also likely to
fuel political unrest amongst a population already angry
about outsiders profiting from Papua's natural riches.
Police Abuse of
Papuan Detainees Claimed
In the course of proceedings against 16
Papuans accused of involvement in the violent March 16
demonstrations in Jayapura in which security force officials
were killed, lawyers for the defendants charged their
clients were routinely beaten in custody. The lawyer for the
defense, Iwan Niode, said the defendants were not safe in
police custody, and that they had been regularly hit by
officers. "I saw for myself a defendant, Patrisius Aronggear,
hit by an officer and other defendants have said they have
been hit, too." The presiding judge promised to raise the
issue of alleged abuse to the chief prosecutors and the
police but refused the requests of defense lawyers to
transfer the detainees out of local police custody. The
judge also pledged to request the prosecutor to ensure that
the defendants' families had easier access to them.
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